Both the 1967–97 and the current Toyota flagships pack V-8 engines, but the 1997–2016, second-generation Century came with Toyota’s first V-12. Offering 355 lb-ft of torque, this hand-built 5.0-liter, 48-valve, VVT-i engine also features two ECUs, so that if one cylinder bank failed for any reason, the car could continue its journey on six cylinders. The Century was designed this way because for Toyota, flawless reliability is the ultimate measure of luxury.
As a domestic market product, Toyota’s flagship sedans were never supposed to compete with the likes of Rolls-Royce or Bentley; instead, the Japanese brand marketed the Century as a product one could acquire through persistent work. A lot of work, that is, given that in 2018, the third-generation car was introduced with a price tag of $178,000.
Back in the 1990s, in order to treat its passengers with the quietest ride, the V-12 Century’s cabin was upholstered in wool, while all gadgets and comfort features could be engaged using a remote control and several buttons, all surrounded by real wood. Unlike any Rolls-Royce I’ve ever seen, there’s even the option of sticking your feet through an opening in the front passenger seat …
As the Emperor of Japan enjoys his Century cabriolet while Toyota’s president keeps showing up in his mysterious GRMN variant, more and more earlier Century sedans make it out of Japan as well—hence why we could call this 1992 example “the weirdest, most brilliant cross-country cruiser.”